20 top rieslings for summer sipping

by Michael Cooper / 27 January, 2017

Riesling, the classic white wine ­variety of Germany, develops ripe fruit flavours at low grape-sugar levels, which means its wine has less alcohol, while retaining crisp, mouth-watering acidity.

So, instead of reaching for another bottle of sauvignon blanc or pinot gris, why not try New Zealand’s most ­overlooked varietal wine? With its inviting floral scents, lightness and incisive, citrusy, limey flavours, riesling is the perfect summer wine.

Brightwater Vineyards Nelson Riesling 2015 •••••

Estate-grown on the Waimea Plains, this richly scented, light-bodied wine (10.5% alc/vol) has strong lemon, lime and passionfruit flavours, with an off-dry, appetisingly crisp finish. Very fresh and ­concentrated, it is a beautifully poised wine, already highly expressive. A top buy. $20

Greystone Waipara Valley Riesling 2015 •••••

Hand-picked with a small portion of Botrytis cinerea (noble rot), this lovely young wine is a medium style. Full-bodied (12.5% alc/vol), it has strong, ripe, citrusy, peachy flavours, hints of lime, spice and honey, and excellent concentration and harmony. Instantly appealing. $27

Misha’s Vineyard Limelight Riesling 2014 •••••

The grapes for this single-vineyard wine were hand-picked in Central Otago. Highly scented, it is a vibrantly fruity, medium style with moderate alcohol (10.5%/vol), and complexity gained by fermenting 25% of the blend with ­indigenous yeasts in old French oak ­barrels. Fleshy, with ­concentrated, citrusy, limey flavours, ­appetising acidity and a rich, finely poised finish, it’s already delicious. $28

Prophet’s Rock Central Otago Dry Riesling 2014 •••••

Estate-grown at Pisa, in the Cromwell Basin, this classy wine was matured in old oak barrels. It has a scented, citrusy bouquet, revealing good complexity. Medium-bodied (11.4% alc/vol), it has strong, vibrant lemon, grapefruit and lime flavours, a bare hint of sweetness, good acid spine and a finely poised, lasting finish. A wine of real personality, it is delicious now, but should also be long-lived. $35

Bannock Brae Central Otago Dry Riesling 2016 ••••½

Grown at Bendigo, this highly distinctive wine reflects “traditional German winemaking techniques”, including fermentation and lees-ageing in old oak barrels. Youthful but already very approachable, it is a fresh, medium to full-bodied wine (12% alc/vol), with strong, citrusy, peachy, slightly spicy flavours, showing unusual complexity, and a crisp, dryish, finely balanced finish. $25

Black Estate Damsteep Waipara Valley Riesling 2015 ••••½

From vines planted in 1999, this North Canterbury wine was fermented in tanks (mostly) and old 500-litre ­barrels. Pale straw, it is mouthfilling (12% alc/vol) and fleshy, in a dryish style with concentrated, peachy flavours, slightly spicy, ­gingery and honeyed, finely balanced acidity and excellent vigour and harmony. Drink now or cellar. $28

Greywacke Marlborough Riesling 2015 ••••½

Hand-picked from mature vines, this wine was half-fermented with indigenous (“native”, rather than cultured) yeasts in old French oak barrels, and all of the blend was oak-aged for five months. Made in a medium style, it is instantly attractive, with good body (12.5% alc/vol), ripe flavours of peaches, passionfruit and limes, gentle sweetness, a touch of complexity and excellent harmony and concentration. $29

Mud House The Mound Waipara Valley Riesling 2014 ••••½

Drinking well now, this single-vineyard North Canterbury wine is invitingly scented. Medium-bodied (11.5% alc/vol), it has an attractive array of lemon, apple and lime flavours, with slightly toasty, bottle-aged notes emerging and lovely harmony. $24

Neudorf Moutere Riesling Dry 2015 ••••½

Estate-grown, hand-picked and fermented with indigenous yeasts in tanks (principally) and old oak casks, this is an elegant, tightly structured Nelson wine, medium to full-bodied (12% alc/vol), with strong, citrusy, limey, vaguely biscuity flavours, a gentle splash of sweetness, and fresh, balanced acidity. Still unfolding, it is already enjoyable. $27

Ostler Lakeside Wines Waitaki Valley North Otago Riesling 2013 ••••½

Full of personality, this fragrant, lemon-scented wine has good intensity of citrusy, slightly peachy flavours. Dryish, with good body (12.5% alc/vol), lively acidity and bottle-aged notes adding complexity, it is drinking well now. $30

Spy Valley Marlborough Riesling 2014 ••••½

This is a distinctive dry style, hand-picked and mostly handled in tanks, but partly fermented in old oak vessels. A full-bodied wine (13% alc/vol), it is powerful and ­persistent, with deep, ripe flavours, showing good complexity, fresh but not high acidity and a long, minerally finish. $22

Dashwood Marlborough Riesling 2015 ••••

Priced well, this floral, mouthfilling wine (12% alc/vol) is vibrantly fruity and reasonably dry. It has finely balanced acidity, with citrusy, limey flavours, showing very good delicacy and depth. $19

Mission Hawke’s Bay Riesling 2015 ••••

Finely balanced for easy drinking, this single-vineyard wine reveals good intensity. Aromatic, it’s medium-bodied (11.8% alc/vol), with strong, ripe, citrusy flavours and a harmonious, off-dry, lingering finish. Good value. $18

Terrace Edge Liquid Geography Waipara Valley Riesling 2015 ••••

Produced in a delicious, distinctly medium style, this sharply priced wine is certified organic. Bright, pale lemon/green, it is light-bodied (10.5% alc/vol), with strong, fresh lemon, lime and passionfruit flavours, lively acidity and excellent ­balance and depth. $19

Two Rivers of Marlborough Juliet Riesling 2016 ••••

From 16-year-old vines in the Wairau Valley, this tangy, lively wine is medium-bodied (11% alc/vol), with ripe, peachy, slightly sweet flavours, a hint of passionfruit and very good vigour and depth. Already approachable, it should be at its best from 2018 on. $25

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Dry Riesling 2015 ••••

Grown in the Wairau and Awatere valleys, this is an off-dry style. Highly aromatic, it is vibrantly fruity and medium to full-bodied (12% alc/vol), with strong, ripe, citrusy, slightly peachy flavours, skilfully balanced for early enjoyment. $20

Wairau River Summer Marlborough Riesling 2016 ••••

Made “to be supped with frivolous frivolity”, according to the producer, this is a fresh, light-bodied wine (9.5% alc/vol). Medium-sweet, with good intensity of peachy, citrusy flavours, fresh and tangy, it’s delicious from the start. $20

Brancott Estate Waipara Riesling 2016 •••½

Well priced, this is a vibrantly fruity, crisp, medium to full-bodied wine (12% alc/vol) with a sliver of sweetness and good depth of citrusy, slightly spicy flavours. Fresh, youthful and finely balanced, it should be at its best from mid-2017 on. $17

Old Coach Road Nelson Riesling 2015 •••½

From Seifried, this is an ­enjoyable, drink-young style, priced sharply. Medium-dry, it is mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), crisp and lively, with plenty of fresh, citrusy, slightly spicy flavour. $13

Peter Yealands Marlborough Riesling 2015 •••½

Priced right, this is a lively, medium-bodied wine (12% alc/vol,) with lemony, limey flavours, a gentle splash of sweetness, fresh acidity, and very good varietal character, depth and harmony. $16

This article was first published in the January 14, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener. Follow the Listener on Twitter, Facebook and sign up to the weekly newsletter.

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